Monday, August 11, 2014

New Mexico irrigation districts halt water deliveries

It comes as little surprise to most farmers and ranchers in New Mexico's Middle Rio Grande Valley River Basin, but now that summer's end is near, irrigation district's across the region have cut off or plan to shut off irrigation water releases until at least next spring. According to Elephant Butte Irrigation District (EBID) officials, water flow in the river has been greatly reduced now that the gates at Elephant Butte Reservoir have been closed, increasing demand on what little water remains in Caballo Reservior just north of Hatch, the State's richest chili pepper production area. The cut off of irrigation water will have little impact on the chili pepper industry in southern New Mexico, partly because of recent rains but mostly because pepper harvest is already underway and the last thing farmers want now is more water on their fields. Water officials say it is just a matter of days before the flow of water in the Rio Grande will slow to a trickle, ultimately bringing the river to a bone-dry stage unless unexpected rains provide scant relief, likely only for a day or two. The exception will be timely releases of water into the river that will be earmarked for farmers in Texas at the neighboring El Paso County Irrigation District No. 1, which is still receiving its guaranteed share of water releases. But these deliveries will end Aug. 22, virtually guaranteeing a dry river until next year. The 90,000-acre Elephant Butte Irrigation District suspended its season July 31, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports a northern Mexico irrigation district also ended its season. But water officials on both sides of the border report that while their seasons have ended, irrigation water pumped through the system this year represents an improvement over last year...more

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